Illegal weapons sneak in on credit
A transnational syndicate has adopted a new strategy to smuggle firearms and bullets from India.
DB officials said the racket is bringing in the weapons on credit. They got the information following the arrest of five alleged members of the syndicate, including a Chhatra League leader in Jashore.
The smugglers use hundi, an illegal mode of transaction, for the crime, they said.
Explaining how the smuggling is done, the officials said syndicate members in Bangladesh first place orders on massaging apps WhatsApp and Signal for firearms like 7.65mm or 9mm pistols.
Receiving the orders, smugglers in India send the arms and bullets to the Bangladeshi side, dodging the border guards.
Once the consignments make their way into Bangladesh, money change hands through some designated illegal shops in the two countries. The smugglers here pay in Bangladeshi Taka while the smugglers in India collect the payment in Indian Rupee.
DB officials said the five arrestees included Akul Hossain, secretary of Bangladesh Chhatra League's (BCL) Sharsha upazila unit in Jashore. They said he has alone sold 200 firearms to different people, including muggers and political leaders, since 2014, claimed DB officials.
DB police arrested Akul and the four others on Thursday after they came to Dhaka to deliver an arms consignment. The four are Ilias Hossain, Abdul Azim, Faruk Hossain, and Fazlur Rahman. The arrestees are now on three-day remand each, said DB officials.
Detectives said Akul mainly used to sell three types of firearms -- 9mm, 7.65mm 5-inch barrel and 7.65mm 3-inch barrel.
"Indian smugglers charged 61,000 Rupees for a 9mm, 51,000 for a 7.65mm 5-inch barrel and 41,000 for a 7.65mm 3-inch barrel. Akul used to sell those for Tk 1.20 lakh, Tk 90 thousand and Tk 80,000 respectively," a top official of DB police, requesting anonymity, told The Daily Star yesterday.
In primary interrogation, Akul admitted that Indian smugglers used to make the firearms and bullets in factories in India. Those would then make their way to Kolkata and finally to Bangladesh.
The Daily Star has obtained a video clip of a conversation between of Akul and and an Indian arms smuggler.
In the clip, Akul is heard asking the Indian smuggler for 20 pieces of 7.65mm pistols. The Indian smuggler replies that he has only three in his hand, but he will be able to deliver the full consignment on September 6.
As Akul asks about the price, the Indian smuggler replies that it will be 41,000 Rupees for each firearm.
During the conversation, Akul and the Indian smuggler is heard using code words like Khabar (food) for bullets. For a consignment of 400 to 500 bullets, the Indian smugglers demands 800 Rupees for each.
Mashiur Rahman, deputy commissioner (Gulshan Division) of DB police, told The Daily Star that the arms smugglers were also found involved in gold and narcotics smuggling.
"Akul primarily has admitted that he used to bring in arms from three dealers in India. They used to keep the arms and bullets hidden in some border areas after wrapping them in plastic bags," he said.
The smugglers send the consignments to the Bangladeshi side when vigilance on the border become a bit relaxed, said DB sources.
The DC said the criminals use some day labourers for the crime and the labourers get their share of the money.
"The payment for the arms and bullets is done through hundi. Bangladeshi smugglers pay Bangladeshi currency to some local cosmetic shops and the Indian smugglers collect Indian Rupee from some shops in their country," said the deputy commissioner.
"We have got the list of smugglers and hundi traders in Bangladesh. We are now analysing their activities and carrying out drives to arrest all of them," he said.
Asked about the buyers of the illegal arms, he said the list includes criminals and land grabbers.
This correspondent has managed to talk with a criminal who admitted to be involved in the transnational syndicate.
He claimed that the price of arms has recently gone up as an arms factory in India was shut down due to the Covid.
DB DC Mashiur said, "We have come to know from smugglers that earlier the price of each firearms was on average 28 to 30 thousand Rupees in India and they used to sell it in Bangladesh for Tk 45 to 50 thousand. But now, the prices have doubled."
"These firearms are automatic and 'made in USA' is written on them," he said.
The arms smuggling syndicate member also said in Bangladesh, they mainly bring the arms consignments when any part of the Indo-Bangla border is found unguarded.
Asked about it, Lt Col Foyezur Rahman, director (operation) of BGB headquarters, told The Daily Star yesterday that the border never remains unguarded.
"But we have only 56,000 members in BGB and Bangladesh and India border is the fifth largest border in the world. One patrol team has to patrol around eight to nine kilometres at a time," he said.
He also said that they have increased the number of border outposts and taken steps to increase their manpower.
"We are doing our best with our limited resources," he added.
Meanwhile, the central BCL yesterday suspended Akul for violating discipline of the organisation, it said in a statement.